Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Yesterday I went to see a run through of ANNA KARENINA at Dundee Rep.

It was the last time the actors perform the whole play in the rehearsal room. With no scenery, no lighting, just a minimum of props and costumes. There's a kind of purity about the performance under these circumstances. It's like a summing up of all they've learnt and practised and created in the preceding weeks of rehearsal.

It was a very beautiful event.

When I’m feeling good about my work, I see it as a kind of gift.

I write a script with all the sensibility and skills in my possession, and I give it to actors, director, designer, and the whole creative team so that they can give it all their sensibilities and their skills too.

This is one of the joys of theatre: because the end result, when you witness it, and witness it in the presence of an audience, is something generally far richer and deeper and stronger and more profound that what it was when it was just a script on the page.

But it’s not always easy to see.

Because when the script is new, the text is continually being called into question.

The rehearsal room floor is a kind of laboratory where ever sentence, every word, is tested and examined.

No-one can quite rest on the script, trust it and build on it, until that process is complete.

Which it never is until the audience has seen it. And sometimes not even then.

My job, sitting there in the middle of it all, is try to think about what is happening. To try to discern which of the problems everyone is wrestling with has to do with the script.

If the script is wrong, I have to put all vanity and defensiveness aside and change it.

If the script is right, I may sometimes have to defend it.

And I have that feeling, always, of vulnerability that you get when you witness your work being looked at by strangers.
It’s as if there’s a layer of skin missing: and I always feel naked and exposed to an icy wind.

But none of that ever happened with this play. Probably because there was such a huge gap between my writing it and it eventually being performed.

First by acting students at Queen Margaret University, then a few years after that by the Lyceum, and this year first by Adam Smith College and now by the Rep.

So when I look at it now, I know it works, works without any doubt at all, and I can feel the pride of ownership with none of the vulnerability.

Especially when it’s being done by such a fantastic company.

It opens next Wednesday: I can’t wait to see it.


I have just seen the play at the Dundee Rep. Your script is great and for me the funniest scene was Anna's husband coming out with religious diatribe to justify his cruelty towards her to make sure she suffered as much as possible for leaving him for another man. The production was very stylish, the music & choreography was brilliant and my only slight disappointment was that the actor playing Anna's lover was not all that charismatic. This of course has nothing to do with your writing, couldn't fault it.
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